The all-new 2019 Audi Q8 flagship SUV is not merely Vorsprung’s answer to the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and the Range Rover Sport.
Audi’s push further into the upper echelons of luxury transportation has been bestowed on the Q8, it will also serve as the foundation of the automaker’s new design language for its future Q-product line up. And, though “four-door coupe” may still sound like an oxymoron to some, an unexpectedly extended drive in the new Q8 proved to me that this is more than just a new badge.
When taking a first look at the car, we can clearly see that everything takes its cue from the front. The bulging rear arches, sloping coupe-like roofline, and the lowered stance are all predefined by the new octagon grille element, with its six vertical chrome fins. We’ve heard that the octagon shape of the grille will be the next silhouette for the whole range of upcoming Audi Q models. Nonetheless, this is not what I’ve been assigned with. My task is to get to grip and experience the interior of the vehicle.
Once I stepped inside, It came as no surprise the Audi Q8 was lavished with an interior like that of the new Audi A8 luxury sedan. The dashboard wraps around, from door panel to door panel, with the upper layer intended to be what my Contributing Editor, Thabiso Moloi describes as “a digital core” of the cabin. It’s dominated by a 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is dedicated to the infotainment and navigation system. An 8.1-inch touchscreen mounted underneath is used to control the air conditioning system, seats and other comfort settings.
The split dual-display is going to take some getting used to versus Audi’s old layout, but after briefly experiencing it in the Q8, the new configuration is warming on me. I particularly like the haptic feedback when you tap the touchscreen, which is accompanied by low sound through the system’s speakers. If you need a bigger buzz, there’s an option for that too. If I’ve got a complaint, I did find that I needed to hold my finger against the display a fraction longer than most touch panels, in order for the selection to register.
My favorite feature, meanwhile? That has to be the shortcuts on the lower touchscreen. You can configure them for directions to your favorite location – home, perhaps, or work – or to your favorite song. Pressing and holding a shortcut allows you to move it around, just like you would with an app icon on the iPhone.
You’d be forgiven for spending more time looking at the MMI touch response infotainment system, though, with its twin touchscreens and freshly-redesigned UI.
The natural voice recognition is a quite helpful. The Q8 may not be quite sure what sort of car it is, but it can certainly figure out where you want to go without you spelling it out like a taxi driver. That flexibility extends to controlling the car’s other features: say “I’m cold,” for instance, and the Q8 knows you’ll want to turn up the heat. I’m used to car voice control systems struggling with my South African accent, but Audi’s did better than most.
While you’re driving, the broad, flat gear lever is placed in just the right position for your wrist, as you reach out and tap at the lower display. It’s a little more awkward as a passenger, mind, since you lack the wrist-rest. You might miss that when you’re using the Q8’s support for scribbling text on the lower touchscreen, as an alternative to the regular on-screen keyboard option.
The 2019 Audi Q8 comes with Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instead of traditional driver instrumentation, along with a head-up display with detailed lane guidance and integrated navigation. It remains one of my favorite features, ever since Audi first offered it on the current-generation TT some years ago. It’s particularly useful when you load up Google Earth, especially when you’re driving in a new town or navigating a busy parking lot looking for a specific store.
A luxury car is rightly judged by the standard of its trim and touch-points, and the Q8 doesn’t fall short. Indeed, the interior finish is an abundance of premium materials, including leather and chrome accents.
One feature I was mighty tempted to check out was the 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, which offers 3D surround sound, unfortunately it was not baked into our test vehicle.
As for the tech specifics, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are standard, as is navigation, a power tailgate, and Audi pre sense basic and front for things like low-speed collision assistance. Optional extra’s include the Premium Plus package which adds things like a Bang & Olufsen audio system, 4-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, and more active safety tech while the Driver Assistance package bakes in adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assistance, active lane assistance, and more.
The Audi Q8 55 TFSI quattro tiptronic is priced at a starting R1,388,000 standard with the 5 year / 100 000km Audi Freeway plan and inclusive of all taxes.